Research project: Larval-fish ecology- biophysical dispersal model for the Great Barrier Reef


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Understanding the scale of larval dispersal is a major challenge in marine ecology and it is clear that management of marine fishes, including by marine protected areas (MPAs), must incorporate the scales over which their populations are connected by larval dispersal. MPAs (green zones) in the Great Barrier Reef promote the abundance, size and reproductive potential of exploited fishes within their boundaries, but an important question remains unanswered - Do green zones provide a recruitment subsidy to exploited fish populations such as coral trout beyond their boundaries (blue zones), thereby promoting the resilience and sustainable exploitation of fish resources?

This project will provide answers to the following questions critical to the assessment of the effectiveness of the Great Barrier Reef Zoning model:

  1. What is the spatial scale of connectivity by larval fish dispersal within the Great Barrier Reef?
  2. How much do green zones contribute to the recruitment of coral trout and other fish species in blue zones (via larval connectivity)?
  3. To what extent are populations in green zones sustained by their own reproduction (via larval retention)?
  4. Are particular areas especially important sources of larvae for blue zones?
  5. Are particular areas sustained by retention or by dispersal?

Dr Jeff Leis , Senior Fellow
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